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Iran summons Swiss envoy to protest US seizure of Iranian oil cargo

Iran's Foreign Ministry on Friday summoned the chargé d'affaires of Switzerland, which represents Washington’s interests in Tehran, to protest the US seizure of Iranian oil cargo from a Russian-operated ship in Greece's territorial waters.

“The Swiss chargé d’affaires was summoned to convey Iran’s concern and strong protest over the continued violation of international laws and maritime conventions concerning free navigation and trade by the US administration,” the director-general of the ministry’s department for American Affairs, said in a statement on Friday.

The ministry also demanded the immediate release of the seized ship and its confiscated cargo.

The Swiss envoy, according to the statement, assured that he would convey Iran’s message to American officials.

Earlier, on Wednesday, Iran’s foreign ministry had summoned the Greek chargé d’affaires to lodge its protest over the same matter.

The ministry officials condemned Greece’s “unacceptable” surrender to “illegal” US pressures and said the “seizure of the cargo of the ship” with the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran was “an example of international piracy.”

In a Thursday report, Reuters news agency cited unnamed sources saying the US Department of Justice had confiscated 700,000 barrels of Iranian oil cargo seized last month off the southern Greek island of Evia onboard a Russian-operated ship.

A Greek source was quoted in the report as saying that the oil cargo had been transferred to another ship hired by Washington and was supposed to be sent to the US, adding that the US Department of Justice had “informed Greece that the cargo on the vessel is Iranian oil.”

Another source was cited as saying that the Iranian oil cargo was currently being transferred to the Liberia-flagged tanker Ice Energy, which is operated by Greek shipping company Dynacom.

The ship, previously operating under the Russian flag, was sailing in international waters when it was forced to anchor near Greece over technical problems.

Iranian authorities have said they will hold the Greek government responsible for the confiscation of crude.

It is the second time the US has confiscated Iranian oil outside its territorial waters on trumped-up charges brought by American courts. 

In 2020, four cargoes of Iranian oil bound for Venezuela were seized by the US with the help of foreign agents. The cargoes were then sold for more than $40 million, according to reports.

The latest incident comes amid stalled talks between Iran and world powers to revive the 2015 nuclear deal four years after Washington unilaterally walked out of the agreement and reinstated crippling sanctions on Iran.

Iran has blamed the lack of decisiveness in Washington for the pause in talks to salvage the deal. US authorities said on Wednesday that chances of reviving the agreement were very bleak, pointing to their reluctance. 

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